By Mike Marsee

A work group will be formed to study an aspect of Kentucky’s proposed new high school graduation requirements that relates to transition readiness as a result of a discussion Nov. 1 by the Superintendent’s Advisory Council (SAC) at the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) in Frankfort.

The work group will discuss how students can demonstrate they are transition-ready through career readiness using exceptional work experience and will offer feedback and recommendations to Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis.

The council was formed by the commissioner of education to solicit advice and input on matters concerning education policy from administrators’ perspectives. The 25 SAC members have instructional expertise in various disciplines, grade bands and areas of specialization that represent Kentucky’s varied student population.

During the meeting, 10 members of the SAC were briefed on the minimum graduation requirements proposal that was approved Oct. 3 by the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE). The changes are aligned to the “profile of a graduate” developed by Kentucky postsecondary educators and business and industry leaders. The profile stipulates high school graduates should be able to communicate clearly, achieve academically, think critically, adapt to change and collaborate.

A public comment period on the proposed changes to regulation is open through Nov. 30, and a public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 29.

The proposed requirements are divided into three components: foundational, personalized and transition-ready. Students must be able to demonstrate transition readiness either through academic readiness or career readiness.

There are six requirements for students to demonstrate career readiness by verifying exceptional work experience, one of which is the documented completion of 1,000 hours of experience within a single career field between 9th grade and graduation.

Some of the superintendents said the 1,000-hour plateau seems too high for most students to attain.

Houston Barber, superintendent of Frankfort Independent schools, said a typical student with a daily internship amasses about 200 hours of experience during the school year. David Horseman, the associate commissioner in KDE’s Office of Career and Technical Education, said most students completing a four-course career pathway would get 750 to 900 hours during those courses. Lewis added that the KBE’s intent was to include experience gained during the summer as well as during the academic year.

Horseman said students who complete career pathways will attain industry certifications that also would fulfill the requirement.

“We’re not trying to make it more difficult for anyone, we’re trying to make possibilities for everyone based on opportunity and access,” he said.

Lewis stressed he also did not want to make it too easy, creating an opportunity to “game” the system.

“We’ve had a great deal of conversation about the thousand hours, so obviously there’s a lot of room for discussion,” Lewis said. “I think it would be a good idea to bring together a group of superintendents and maybe principals to have some conversation about it, and I’d welcome the recommendations and feedback from the group about that,”

Lewis was asked about the process in which students who fail to demonstrate foundational skills in reading and mathematics on high school assessments – another requirement of the proposed graduation changes – can appeal to superintendents and whether KDE would offer guidance for making decisions on those appeals. He said there would be no guidance beyond what is in the proposed regulation.

The council also heard a report on the progress of the Growth Indicator Work Group, which met Oct. 24 and will meet again Nov. 9 to review the state’s current growth calculation methodology and make recommendations for how to improve it before the release of school accountability data next fall.

The growth factor, which is part of the new accountability system, measures whether Kentucky students are on track to reach the goal of proficiency in reading and mathematics. KDE has received questions regarding the methodology for calculating growth and how educators should interpret and use results from the growth indicator

Superintendents agreed that the growth measure is critical to the system and that it should be easy to understand and interpret. Some of them said it’s important for them to be able to explain the system to teachers and parents.

“We need to have a system that we can understand, that we can explain, that we can calculate,” said Scott Hawkins, superintendent of Woodford County schools. “I think it holds us more accountable when we can calculate it.”